1920s Men’s Fashion – What Guys Wore In The Roaring Twenties

Fashion

Welcome to the Jazz Age, a period where 1920s men’s fashion took a sharp turn towards the sophisticated yet undeniably cool.

Far from the buttoned-up rigidity of earlier Edwardian years, this was a decade that saw men’s style leap into the realms of comfort, elegance, and a touch of rebellion. It was a time when jazz filled the air, economic booms created unprecedented opulence, and men’s wardrobes became a playground for expressing newfound freedoms.

Keep reading to take a stylish stroll down memory lane to uncover the sartorial splendors of 1920s men’s fashion.

Key Takeaways

  • The 1920s revolutionized men’s fashion, marrying comfort with an elegance that was both approachable and aspirational.
  • Tailored suits, casual knits, and a significant emphasis on accessories defined the decade, setting the stage for modern menswear.
  • Grooming trends leaned towards polished sophistication, with neat hairstyles and the prevalence of the clean-shaven look.
  • Men’s fashion in the 1920s also saw a larger influence from celebrity figures, who contributed to popularizing the era’s signature styles, from sportswear to formal attire.
Two men pour alcohol down a drain during prohibition in the United States, c. 1920.
Two men pour alcohol down a drain during prohibition in the United States, c. 1920.” by yintinma is marked with Public Domain Mark 1.0

1920s Men’s Fashion: A Brief Background

When the dust settled from World War I, the 1920s emerged as a beacon of new beginnings. With the war’s end came a collective sigh of relief in the US and a desire to live life to the fullest, reflected in the era’s fashion choices.

Men’s fashion in the 1920s shed its militaristic rigidity and utilitarian needs for silhouettes that offered freedom, color, and flair. This decade was about celebrating prosperity and progress, with fashion becoming an expression of optimism and individuality.

Our Favorite 1920s Men’s Fashion Staples

Men’s Fashion in the 1920s: Style Essentials

three men in suits walking with arms locked
lostinvintagefashion / Instagram

Suits

The suit was the era’s pièce de résistance, a symbol of a man’s status yet redesigned for comfort and style. Suits in 20s men’s fashion boasted a looser fit, reflecting the decade’s shift towards ease of movement and away from the constriction of previous years.

Fabrics played with texture and color, moving beyond traditional blacks and greys to incorporate rich browns, navy, and even subtle plaid, pinstripe, and herringbone fabrics for the upper classes.

The double-breasted jacket, with its wide lapels, became a staple, offering a masculine silhouette that was powerful yet elegant. Complemented by the sharp creases of high-waisted trousers that gracefully widened towards the hem, often with a wide cuff if the suit wasn’t custom-made, the 1920s suit was a triumph of form and function, a testament to the era’s innovative spirit and its relentless pursuit of elegance.

Three unidentified men in open car with University of Michigan pennant, location unknown (rural), 1920s.
Three unidentified men in open car with University of Michigan pennant, location unknown (rural), 1920s.” by In Memoriam: Wystan is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Shirts

Shirts became a canvas for expression in the 1920s. Striped, checked, and even floral patterns offered a departure from the plain whites of the past.

Collar styles varied widely, from the rounded club collar that lent a softer look to the more traditional pointed collars. 20s men’s fashion also saw a move towards attached collars (vs. the standard, rigid white collars of earlier years). The attached collars were largely considered uncomfortable, and the attached version (think of a modern suit shirt) was much softer for daily wear. However, sleeve garters (bands of fabric that could be tightened) were still popular for ready-made items, so men could easily customize a shirt and keep a shirt in place. The introduction of detachable collars and cuffs allowed for greater versatility and easier laundering, reflecting the decade’s practical approach to fashion.

two men in 1920s wearing hats and three piece suits
lostinvintagefashion / Instagram

Pants

Men’s pants in the 1920s saw a significant shift towards higher waists and wider legs, emphasizing comfort without sacrificing style. This was the era of the Oxford bag, a style of trousers that offered ample room and epitomized the relaxed approach to menswear.

The use of belts became more common, signaling a move away from suspenders and marking a casual yet refined approach to securing trousers. As well because ready-to-wear items were becoming more popular, a large cuff of the pant leg was also seen as in-fashion. Knickerbockers were still worn for sports and activities, typically paired with colorful patterned knee-high socks.

man in 1920s wearing a knitted vest standing by the sea
vintage. everyday_ / Instagram

Sweaters & Knitwear

As leisure time became more valued, knitwear found its place in the modern man’s wardrobe.

The cricket sweater, with its distinctive V-neck and striped trim, became a symbol of casual elegance. Cardigans and sleeveless sweaters layered over collared shirts provided a comfortable yet put-together look suitable for both the office and the golf course.

man in 1920s wearing a long coat with fur collar
lostinvintagefashion / Instagram

Jackets & Outerwear

Outerwear in 20s men’s fashion ranged from the practical to the plush. Leather flight jackets emerged, inspired by aviators and their daring feats, while long, over-the-knee wool overcoats with fur collars offered luxury and warmth in the cooler months. The sports jacket, often in tweed, allowed men to bridge the gap between formal and casual attire seamlessly.

man in 1920s wearing a suit holding a golf club
lostinvintagefashion / Instagram

Footwear

Men’s footwear in the 1920s matched the era’s diverse fashion landscape. For formal occasions, patent leather Oxfords shone, while two-tone brogues added a playful yet polished touch to less formal outfits. Boots remained a staple for outdoor activities, showcasing durability and style.

man in 1920s wearing a penguin suit with a hat and a cane
lostinvintagefashion / Instagram

Men’s Formalwear in the 1920s

As night fell and the jazz bands warmed up, the men of the 1920s transitioned from their daytime finery into the realm of formalwear, where luxury and detail whispered tales of opulence and celebration.

Evening wear was an arena of sartorial splendor, with tuxedos and tailcoats crafted from the finest silks and wools, their lapels a glossy contrast in satin or grosgrain.

The black-tie ensemble was elevated to an art form, featuring a crisp white shirt with a starched front, a bow tie perfectly knotted, and a cummerbund to cinch the waist and polish the look. For the most formal of occasions, the tailcoat was the garment of choice, its split tails fluttering with an almost regal grace.

Accessories, too, played their part in the formal tableau, with patent leather shoes shining under the chandeliers and silk top hats tipping in salute to the era’s grandeur.

Men’s formalwear in the 1920s was a dance of detail and decorum, a night-time narrative that celebrated the joy and exuberance of the decade.

two men in 1920s sitting on a chair with arms resting on a table
20s.30s.40s.50s / Instagram

Men’s Casualwear in the 1920s

If formalwear was the 1920s’ ode to the night, then casualwear was its salute to the sun-drenched days of leisure and sport. The decade witnessed an explosion of interest in outdoor activities, from golf and tennis to motor racing and yachting, and men’s casualwear evolved to meet this newfound enthusiasm with style and functionality.

The introduction of the polo shirt marked a significant moment in casual attire, offering a comfortable yet stylish option that transcended the sports field. Knit polo shirts, breezy linen trousers, and soft, unstructured blazers became the uniforms of leisure, offering a blend of comfort and casual elegance.

The introduction of the sport jacket, often in tweed or flannel, allowed men to straddle the line between casual and formal with ease, its versatility a nod to the changing dynamics of men’s lifestyles. Footwear, too, relaxed into the decade, with two-tone brogues and soft leather loafers completing the casual ensemble.

But perhaps the most iconic element of 1920s casualwear was the plus-fours – baggy knickers that ended four inches below the knee, paired with argyle socks for a look that was as much about fashion as it was about function.

Men’s casualwear in the 1920s embraced the spirit of freedom and fun, crafting a wardrobe that was ready for adventure, whether on the golf course or aboard a gleaming yacht.

man in 1920s tipping his hat for the ladies
20s.30s.40s.50s / Instagram

Men’s Accessories in the 1920s

In the 1920s, accessories were not afterthoughts but integral elements of a man’s ensemble, each adding a layer of complexity and elegance to the overall look. From the utilitarian to the purely decorative, these items spoke volumes about the wearer’s personality, status, and style sensibilities. As we look back on this golden age of men’s fashion, it’s clear that the devil was truly in the details.

Hats

The ’20s were a golden age for men’s hats, with the fedora, trilby, and Panama styles dominating the landscape. Each hat offered a way to punctuate an outfit, adding a touch of sophistication or casual cool.

Watches

Wristwatches, as opposed to pocket watches, became the norm, a practical accessory for the modern man. Art Deco designs influenced watch aesthetics, with geometric shapes and lavish decoration reflecting the era’s opulent mood.

Ties 

Ties and bow ties in bold patterns and colors added a personal touch to a man’s outfit. Silk was the material of choice, offering a luxurious sheen that complemented the decade’s polished looks.

Suspenders and Belts

While suspenders remained popular for formal attire, belts gained traction thanks to the inclusion of loops on trousers as a fashionable and functional choice for casual and workwear. Leather belts in various widths and colors offered an opportunity to customize an outfit further.

Glasses

Eyeglasses became a fashion statement in their own right, with round tortoiseshell frames and the emerging pince-nez style offering a scholarly yet stylish accessory option.

For those in need of vision correction, the monocle or pince-nez offered a distinguished option beyond traditional spectacles. While not as commonly worn as eyeglasses, these accessories added an intellectual or, at times, whimsical touch to a gentleman’s visage, contributing to the diverse portrait of ‘20s men’s fashion.

Pocket Squares

No 1920s suit was complete without a pocket square, the quintessential flourish that added a pop of color or a touch of silk’s soft sheen to a gentleman’s outfit. Whether neatly folded or casually puffed, the pocket square was a silent testament to a man’s attention to detail and his flair for personal expression.

Cufflinks

As shirts with French cuffs became the standard for evening wear and formal occasions, cufflinks emerged as not just functional pieces but as miniature works of art. From simple gold and silver to intricately designed enamels, cufflinks in the 1920s were a subtle indicator of a man’s wealth and status, as well as his taste in fine jewelry.

Canes and Walking Sticks

While no longer a necessity for the average gentleman, canes and walking sticks were adopted as stylish accessories by those looking to add an aristocratic air to their appearance. Often crafted from fine woods and topped with elaborate handles in silver, gold, or even crystal, a cane in ‘20s men’s fashion was a nod to the refined elegance of earlier times.

Leather Goods

Leather accessories, including wallets, belts, and briefcases, became staples of men’s fashion in the 1920s. Craftsmanship was key, with items often hand-stitched from the finest leathers. A well-made leather accessory was a symbol of sophistication that complemented the era’s tailored suits and polished shoes.

three men in 1920s wearing suits and hats
20s.30s.40s.50s / Instagram

Men’s Grooming Trends in the 1920s

The 1920s man understood that grooming was not just about looking good but about presenting oneself as a man of taste, sophistication, and an appreciation for the finer things in life.

1920s Men’s Hairstyles

1920s men’s hairstyles were a silent rebellion against the buttoned-up styles of the past, shifting towards the sleek, the shiny, and the meticulously groomed.

The iconic look of the decade was the slicked-back hair, achieved with generous amounts of brilliantine or pomade, giving a glossy finish that matched the era’s polished aesthetics. Hair was kept short on the sides and longer on top, allowing for a neat, combed-back appearance that exuded sophistication and control.

This was the era of the dapper gentleman, where every strand of hair was in its rightful place, reflecting the meticulous attention to detail that the 1920s man applied to every aspect of his life. Barbershops became temples of style, where men would gather not just for a haircut but for the ritual of grooming to attain that perfect parting line that signified one was at the forefront of fashion.

The influence of cinema added to the allure, with stars like Rudolph Valentino and Gary Cooper embodying the heartthrob image with their immaculate hairstyles, inspiring men everywhere to embrace a more polished and refined look.

1920’s Facial Hair

Facial hair in the 1920s took a turn towards the minimalistic, a stark contrast to the full beards and voluminous mustaches of the Victorian and Edwardian eras.

The clean-shaven look became the hallmark of the modern man, symbolizing sophistication and a break from the rugged masculinity of previous generations. This was not just a matter of fashion but a reflection of the times, as men sought to present themselves in a manner that matched the sleek, streamlined aesthetic of the age.

However, for those who did favor facial hair, the mustache was king, but not just any mustache—a neatly trimmed, meticulously groomed one that sat above the lip with precision. It was less about making a bold statement and more about adding a touch of personal style. Icons like Charlie Chaplin and F. Scott Fitzgerald sported mustaches that were as much a part of their identity as their contributions to film and literature, proving that even the smallest aspects of one’s appearance could have a significant impact on one’s style legacy.

man in a suit layered with a long coat
iamowencain / Instagram

Big Names in 1920s Men’s Fashion

The 1920s were not just a pivotal decade for fashion changes but also a time when certain individuals set the trends, leaving a lasting impact on men’s style. These are some of the era’s most influential fashion icons and what made their style stand out:

Al Capone

The infamous gangster Al Capone, while known for his criminal empire, was also a style icon of the 1920s. Capone’s fashion choices reflected his powerful status, often seen in custom-tailored suits that were both a symbol of wealth and intimidation.

His preference for pinstripe suits, wide-brimmed fedoras, and silk ties underscored the era’s affinity for opulence. Capone’s style influenced the “gangster” look that became synonymous with 1920s men’s fashion, emphasizing the importance of dressing to convey power and authority.

Fred Astaire

Fred Astaire, the epitome of grace and elegance on the dance floor, also set trends offstage with his distinctive style.

Astaire favored tailored suits that allowed for movement, incorporating lightweight fabrics and a more relaxed fit that contrasted with the era’s more rigid formalwear. His knack for accessorizing, whether it was with a necktie, pocket square, or the perfect pair of dancing shoes, showcased his attention to detail.

Astaire’s style was all about effortless sophistication, influencing men to prioritize both comfort and style in their wardrobe choices.

F. Scott Fitzgerald

As one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century, F. Scott Fitzgerald was not just a literary icon but also a fashion influencer. His personal style mirrored the themes of glamour and doom he explored in his works.

Fitzgerald was often photographed in well-fitted, three-piece suits, crisp shirts, and neat ties, embodying the polished look of the intellectual elite of the 1920s. His appearance, combined with his public persona, played a significant role in popularizing the image of the 1920s literary sophisticate—a blend of academic and sartorial prowess.

Rudolph Valentino

The silver screen’s “Great Lover,” Valentino influenced men’s fashion with his iconic Sheik image, embodying the romantic, exotic allure of the 1920s.

Rudolph Valentino was known for his tailored suits, slicked-back hair, and the use of accessories like pocket squares and signet rings, contributing to the era’s fascination with cinematic glamour and sophistication.

man in a suit with suspenders
whatmyboyfriendwore / Instagram

How to Wear 1920s Men’s Fashion Today

Incorporating 1920s style into today’s wardrobe is about embracing the era’s emphasis on tailoring, comfort, and a touch of flair. A well-fitted suit, a crisp patterned shirt, and a pair of brogues can capture the spirit of the ’20s while remaining thoroughly modern. Accessories like a vintage watch or a classic fedora can add a timeless touch to any outfit.

Final Verdict

The 1920s were a seminal decade for men’s fashion, introducing styles and principles that continue to influence modern menswear. Its legacy is a testament to the power of fashion as a form of expression, reflecting the cultural, social, and economic currents of its time.

FAQ

    • Men in the 1920s wore suits with wide lapels and high-waisted trousers, often complemented by fedoras, waistcoats, and patterned ties for both formal and casual occasions.

      • To dress like a 1920s gentleman, wear a tailored suit, a waistcoat, a fedora or bowler hat, a pocket square, and brogue shoes, emphasizing accessories like a pocket watch or a cane for added authenticity.

        • Upper class men in the 1920s wore finely tailored suits, often in luxurious fabrics, with top hats for formal occasions, and they accessorized with silk ties, pocket squares, and patent leather shoes.

          • Men in the 1920s had a polished appearance, featuring slicked-back hair, clean-shaven faces or neatly trimmed mustaches, and they were typically dressed in well-fitted suits for a sharp, elegant silhouette.

            • To a 1920s party, men wear vintage or vintage-inspired suits, preferably with pinstripes or in bold colors, accessorized with fedoras, bow ties, and pocket squares, aiming for an ensemble that captures the era’s spirit of opulence and style.

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